Hashim Amla made the shock decision to resign as South Africa Test captain following the drawn second Test with England in Cape Town on Wednesday, citing his belief that he will be of greater value to the world’s No1 side as a senior player.
The 32-year-year-old stepped down after Alastair Cook’s side had battled to 159 for six on the fifth day before rain and bad light ruined any chance of a result, with the batsman AB de Villiers immediately announced as his replacement for the rest of the series.
With South Africa 1-0 down and two Tests to play, Amla said he had been considering his position for a fortnight and admitted a recent battle for form, seemingly addressed by scoring 201 in his side’s first innings of 627 for seven declared, meant he was better off focusing on his batting.
“Naturally this decision is not an easy one but the more I think about it the more I believe I can be of greater value to the Proteas as a fully focused batsman and senior player at this time of rebuilding our team,” said Amla. “I felt someone else could do a better job. I made my decision two weeks before the first Test against England. This decision was not an easy one to make but I felt I needed to be true to myself.”
Amla took over from Graeme Smith in June 2014, overseeing four wins, six draws and four defeats in 14 Tests. But after eight Tests without a win, and a 3-0 defeat in India, the pressure had increased in South Africa and led to suggestions his placid nature meant he was not suited to the role.
“My leadership style, with a young team, meant I felt someone else could do a better job ,” he said, “but there is no particular incident that led to this decision. Sometimes you get criticism but I always felt growing up you tend to get a thick skin and know which has value in it.”
Cricket South Africa confirmed De Villiers, the one-day captain, was now the frontrunner for the Test role permanently but with their next series not until August at home to New Zealand, a long-term appointment was not imminent.
The 31-year-old De Villiers, who admitted to concerns over his workload during the first Test amid rumours of an impending retirement, said: “It is an incredible honour to captain South Africa in any format. This has come at short notice and is the realisation of a lifelong dream.
“At the moment my priority and focus is placed on leading this team to what can be a memorable series win against England. This Test squad is motivated and determined to turn our performances around and I’m looking forward to taking up that challenge as captain.”
The news, announced when Cook was speaking to the media after the drawn Test, surprised the England captain, with three of his predecessors – Andrew Strauss, Michael Vaughan and Nasser Hussain – having all resigned following defeats at the hands of South Africa.
“It’s a shock,” Cook said. “I haven’t got anything to say, really. He played an outstanding captain’s knock in this Test match. It’s normally an England captain that goes against South Africa. I’ve outlasted a South African captain.”
After a fifth day in which England had been in peril at 116 for six before a stand of 43 runs over 22.2 overs between Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow saved the situation, Cook said: “It’s never an enjoyable day as a captain. We always seemed to be in a good position to save the Test but you would like it to be three or four wickets down.”
England posted 629 for six in their first innings, fired by a stunning 258 from 198 balls by Ben Stokes and an unbeaten 150 from Bairstow but dropped catches in field cost them any chance of pushing for a victory at Newlands.
On Stokes, the 31-year-old captain added: “It was unbelievable batting. He’s a real gem who can turn games. I genuinely believe that was not a once-in-a-lifetime innings. Maybe not those numbers again but you have seen over the last 12 months the real development of a player.”
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